The Final Four is here, and one of the best “undercards” tips off the National Semifinals as Kentucky and Louisville meet for eternal bragging rights and a trip to the title game. Then, Ohio State and Kansas meet in the game that very few are talking about because of the other matchup, but which should be a tremendous game of big men.
#1 Kentucky vs. #4 Louisville
Since 1985, #1 seeds are 4-1 against #4 seeds in national semifinal games, with that one loss being Arizona over North Carolina in 1997. Louisville will try to pull the same feat today.
Both of these teams rank in the top 5 in two-point field goal percentage allowed on defense, with excellent defenders and stoppers in the back (Davis for Kentucky and Dieng for Louisville). Dieng will have to stay out of foul trouble for the Cardinals to have a chance.
The difference is actually on the other end, where Kentucky is one of the best offenses in the country and can beat you in multiple ways, while Louisville has struggled at times to score. To pull the upset, Louisville must control Kentucky on the boards and get an efficient game out of Peyton Siva. If he’s not the best guard on the floor tonight, they don’t have a chance.
Predictions: Kentucky 66, Louisville 61 (Louisville +9.5)
#2 Ohio State vs. #2 Kansas
Two more great defensive teams provide the theme to this year’s Final Four. Ohio State, though, does it differently. They don’t have a great shot blocker like the other three teams, and do it by playing on the ball defense, starting with Aaron Craft, and being the best at limiting second chance opportunities by controlling the offensive boards. Kansas, on the other hand, has Jeff Withey, who has improved throughout the year and been a key factor in the Jayhawks reaching New Orleans.
Tyshawn Taylor is the X-factor in this one. He has shot the ball horribly from outside and is 0 for 17 from three point range, but also took over stretches of the North Carolina game. He will go head to head with Aaron Craft for much of the game. On the other end, DeShaun Thomas will get to match up with Thomas Robinson a fair amount of time, and must also play a smart game where he draws whoever is guarding him all over the offensive zone. Kansas succeeded in the second half against North Carolina by playing a triangle and two, and if they do that in this one, Thomas would definitely be one of the guarded men. Others will have to step up and play it much better than Carolina did.
Predictions: Kansas 62, Ohio State 60 (Kansas +3)